What If?

Your Sub­way is At­tacked With Chem­i­cal Weapons?

RECOIL OFFGRID - - Contents - Story By Tim MacWelch Il­lus­tra­tions by Joe Oesterle

Your Sub­way is At­tacked With

Chem­i­cal Weapons?

The rhyth­mic vi­bra­tions of the sub­way car had al­most lulled me back to sleep, even though the cabin was crowded with morn­ing com­muters. Strong scents wafted back and forth. The cologne and per­fume of the pas­sen­gers, as well as the count­less cups of cof­fee, cre­ated a riot of scents as­sault­ing my nose. I tried to ig­nore the odors in my groggy state, shut­ting my eyes and block­ing ev­ery­thing out. It was work­ing, un­til the pas­sen­gers at the end of the sub­way car started scream­ing and a new smell caught my at­ten­tion.

Nos­trils sting­ing, I be­gan to process the new in­for­ma­tion. My eyes opened as the sting­ing sen­sa­tion trav­eled from my nose into the back of my throat. Scent can trig­ger mem­ory, and as I fum­bled for recog­ni­tion, it hit me — bleach, it smelled like chlo­rine bleach! As fright­ened peo­ple be­gan to rush past me, I won­dered if this would be my last sub­way ride.

For this episode of RE­COIL OFFGRID’s “What If?” col­umn, the ed­i­tors gave us a nasty ur­ban night­mare. We had to work our way through a ter­ror­ist at­tack in a crowded sub­way car. Con­tin­u­ing our new for­mat, the ed­i­tors asked us to ex­plain what we would per­son­ally do in these emer­gency sit­u­a­tions. This isn’t some ran­dom char­ac­ter stum­bling through a sce­nario, this is ex­actly what we’d do in a packed sub­way car full of pan­icked peo­ple and poi­sonous fumes. Try not to hold your breath while read­ing!

The Setup: There’s been re­cent news of in­ter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tions that an un­named ter­ror­ist group is threat­en­ing to at­tack a ma­jor New York City sub­way line with a chem­i­cal gas at­tack. It has been two months since the initial re­ports, but me­dia cov­er­age has sub­sided so you be­gin to as­sume the re­ports may have been ex­ag­ger­ated. While these cur­rent events are still un­fold­ing, you’re at­tend­ing a day­long lec­ture at Columbia Uni­ver­sity.

Since you don’t own a car and the sub­way is your usual method of travel, you board the sub­way near your home at the Bed­ford Park Sta­tion at around 7 a.m. on your way to the 116th Street sta­tion near the Uni­ver­sity. The train is full of the usual com­muters and noth­ing seems out of place.

The Com­pli­ca­tion: Af­ter the train stops at the 155th Street sta­tion and then re­sumes its course, you no­tice a com­mo­tion in the car be­hind you. Peo­ple start flee­ing that car and en­ter­ing yours, cov­er­ing their

mouths with their hands and cloth­ing, act­ing like they’re in pain and chok­ing. At this mo­ment, you no­tice a dis­tinct acrid smell and yel­low-green haze that, based on your re­search and knowl­edge, you be­lieve to be chlo­rine gas.

You sus­pect your sub­way has been the vic­tim of a chlo­rine gas at­tack/do­mes­tic terror in­ci­dent. The con­duc­tor is ob­vi­ously not aware of what’s go­ing on. What can you do? There may be mul­ti­ple chem­i­cal gas at­tacks hap­pen­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously in var­i­ous cars; you’re just not sure yet. What steps can you take to help pro­tect your­self, save lives, and alert au­thor­i­ties?


The sprawl­ing pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem of New York City safely moves over 1bil­lion peo­ple a year, but with the threat of a ter­ror­ist at­tack in my mind I’d think long and hard whether to ride a sub­way car with that loom­ing threat. Sure, more peo­ple die ev­ery year from au­to­mo­bile ac­ci­dents than train wrecks and ter­ror­ist at­tacks com­bined — so much so that car ac­ci­dent fa­tal­i­ties rarely make the news. But that doesn’t mean that I’d be ea­ger to get into a crowded un­der­ground fa­cil­ity with lim­ited exit strate­gies.

In my preparation, job one is to study the sub­way tran­sit sys­tem. Learn its routes, its safety pro­ce­dures, and es­cape routes, with par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to ob­vi­ous bot­tle­necks or other points that would hin­der evac­u­a­tion.

My sec­ond spe­cific piece of preparation for this type of threat would be to re­search pre­vi­ous ter­ror­ist at­tacks on sub­way cars and trains. In 2004 in Madrid, ter­ror­ists set off 10 back­pack bombs on the com­muter rail net­work, killing 191 peo­ple and wound­ing more than 1,800. One year later, a sarin gas at­tack oc­curred in a Tokyo sub­way.

This at­tack was per­pe­trated by the Aum Shin­rikyo (Supreme Truth) cult, a group of dooms­day fa­nat­ics with thou­sands of fol­low­ers all over Ja­pan. Their in­sane leader, Shoko Asa­hara, gained ac­cess to the wealth of his fol­low­ers and em­ployed a chemist to cre­ate the sarin gas weapons that killed 12 peo­ple and in­jured more than 5,000. While the mo­tives of these nut jobs are part of the re­search, their methods would be my pri­mary area of fo­cus.

My next job would be to re­search res­pi­ra­tory de­vices. Many of us in­clude sim­ple masks (like an N95 mask) in our everyday preps, but it’s largely use­less in a gas at­tack. Va­pors, fumes, and gases go right through the mask — just like the air we breathe. And even though N95 masks will fil­ter out an­thrax and the cough droplets that trans­port the flu virus, you’ll need some­thing made for gases to re­move them from the air you’ll breathe.

One com­monly avail­able fil­ter that can be found at most home im­prove­ment stores and at­tached to half masks or full face masks is the 3M Multi Gas/Va­por Car­tridge (fil­ter #60926). This af­ford­able car­tridge can at­tach to a va­ri­ety of res­pi­ra­tor masks and re­move chlo­rine, hy­dro­gen chlo­ride, chlo­rine diox­ide, plus a num­ber of other nasty chem­i­cals. Just re­mem­ber that a mask is only as ef­fec­tive as the sur­face it seals against. Mus­tache, no prob­lem. Soul patch, OK. But full beards keep the rub­ber mask from seal­ing against your skin.

As my fi­nal prep for close-quar­ters travel on a sub­way, I’d want a city-friendly EDC kit. This as­sort­ment of everyday carry gear

would in­clude a whis­tle, a flash­light, a firstaid kit, and a small pry bar. It wouldn’t hurt to have an el­e­ment that pre­pares you for a pos­si­ble chem­i­cal at­tack too (be­sides the res­pi­ra­tor). A prod­uct called Re­ac­tive Skin De­con­tam­i­na­tion Lo­tion is now avail­able to civil­ians. RSDL is the only de­con­tam­i­nant cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­move or neu­tral­ize chem­i­cal war­fare agents such as tabun, sarin, so­man, cy­clo­hexyl sarin, VR, VX, mus­tard gas, and T-2 toxin. It’s a sim­ple lit­tle packet of lo­tion­like neu­tral­izer. Each kit comes with in­struc­tions and a train­ing prod­uct, so you can get a feel for it through re­al­is­tic prac­tice. It also comes with a packet of de­con­tam­i­nant for one per­son, which re­moves the chem­i­cal agent from the skin in a sin­gle step. It won’t help with our chlo­rine gas sce­nario, but against other agents — it’s bet­ter to have it and not need it ….

On Site

Af­ter de­cid­ing to take the sub­way, my first safety pre­cau­tion would be to choose what I per­ceive to be the safest car on the train. But which car should I choose?

Con­ven­tional wis­dom would lead us to be­lieve that the front and rear cars of a sub­way train (or other type of train) are the most dan­ger­ous places in a crash.

The front car would take the brunt of the dam­age in the event of a head-on col­li­sion, with the rear car tak­ing dam­age if the train were rear-ended. But a ter­ror­ist at­tack is a very dif­fer­ent event com­pared to a train wreck. In the event of a ter­ror­ist at­tack, the most crowded car would likely be the most tempt­ing tar­get.

Just one ex­am­ple of this sin­is­ter plan­ning can be seen in the Lon­don sub­way bomb­ings of July 7, 2005. In this at­tack, three suicide bombers det­o­nated ex­plo­sives on­board sub­way trains dur­ing the busy morn­ing com­mute. While a num­ber of peo­ple were also killed and in­jured that morn­ing in a dou­ble-decker bus bomb­ing per­pe­trated by a fourth group mem­ber, the sub­way por­tion of the at­tack killed 39 peo­ple and wounded hun­dreds more. Each of the three sub­way bombers sat or stood near the train doors, where the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of pas­sen­gers would be lo­cated.

From my per­spec­tive, the least pop­u­lated car is the least de­sir­able tar­get for some­one in­tent on caus­ing mass ca­su­al­ties. Once on­board the un­de­sir­able sub­way car, I’ d take his­tory’s les­son to heart and stay away from the dou­ble doors in the car. Sure, this would typ­i­cally re­sult in more walk­ing, but that’s a small price to pay for a greater mar­gin of safety. And whether I was in the sub­way in NYC or in a tube in any other part of the world, I’ d find the emer­gency ex­its and alarms.

Once I’ve cho­sen my seat on the un­pop­u­lar car (story of my life), I’d still re­main vig­i­lant for sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity. In a less pop­u­lated car, there would be fewer peo­ple to ob­serve for any odd be­hav­ior or pack­ages. This qui­eter area might be cho­sen as a setup or stag- ing area, where a ter­ror­ist could po­ten­tially pre­pare to launch an at­tack.

The Cri­sis

In the midst of a chlo­rine gas at­tack on a sub­way, with the cir­cum­stances still un­clear, the first thing I’d do is use the pas­sen­ger alarm or pas­sen­ger emer­gency in­ter­coms to no­tify the train crew that some­thing was se­ri­ously wrong. I’d have scouted out the lo­ca­tion of these when board­ing. Once the com­mo­tion started and I smelled a nox­ious gas, that’s the time to hit the “panic but­ton,” though I’d want to avoid ac­tual panic in­ter­nally and avoid the fright­ened throngs of peo­ple that may be rush­ing my way. I could also try 911 on my phone, but there are no guar­an­tees with mo­bile phone re­cep­tion in a tun­nel. It’s also pos­si­ble that the sys­tems that sup­port the phones would be flooded with calls dur­ing a cri­sis.

As for my po­si­tion, I wouldn’t want to be far from an emer­gency exit, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to be in a spot where a crowd could crush me up against a wall or un­opened door.

I def­i­nitely wouldn’t try to get down low to­ward the floor. First, gaseous weapons wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily rise like smoke, and sec­ondly, I don’t want to be tram­pled.

Once I sounded the alarm, I wouldn’t ex­pect the train to stop be­tween sta­tions. If I had a multi-gas half-mask, I’ d don the res­pi­ra­tor and hide the mask by pulling up my shirt. I wouldn’t want des­per­ate peo­ple to rip the mask from my face. With the mask cov­ered by cloth­ing, I’ d look like ev­ery­one else.

Without a multi-gas res­pi­ra­tor, I’d have few choices for pro­tec­tion. I could use cloth­ing as a fil­ter and also at­tempt to limit my breath­ing. I could also try to move to an area with clearer air. If the agent gives any vis­ual cues, such as dust, haze, or color — you could move the other way. Once the car stops (on route or at a sta­tion), I’d get out and seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion. I may not im­me­di­ately no­tice signs or symp­toms of poi­son­ing, so out­side help is def­i­nitely war­ranted.


Chlo­rine gas forms hy­drochlo­ric acid on con­tact when it’s in­haled. Its vic­tims suf­fo­cate to death from fluid ac­cu­mu­lat­ing in their dam­aged lungs, and es­cape is dif­fi­cult when af­flicted with burn­ing, tear­ing eyes. There has been in­creased chat­ter of cred­i­ble threats, and you know the sub­way has been tar­geted be­fore. Pre­par­ing for your com­mute un­der these cir­cum­stances isn’t be­ing overly para­noid, it’s the re­spon­si­ble thing to do.

Pack­ing for the com­mute: Many dis­creet tac­ti­cal bags, es­chew an overtly mil­i­tary look, while still fea­tur­ing plenty of rap­i­dac­cess pouches, MOLLE, and Vel­cro in the in­te­rior to hold all your es­sen­tial gear. While many are pri­mar­ily de­signed to fa­cil­i­tate the quick draw of a firearm, in this sit­u­a­tion hav­ing in­stant ac­cess to the key con­tents such as those be­low can be just as life sav­ing.

Flash­light. In a con­fined space, a lit­tle bit of smoke or gas can se­verely limit your vis­i­bil­ity. Also, yel­low/am­ber lenses seem to re­flect less (or ap­pear to re­flect less) than stan­dard white light on par­tic­u­lates in the air (smoke and fog).

A cell phone. Re­mem­ber, many phones have a flash­light fea­ture. While not as ef­fec­tive as a tac­ti­cal flash­light, it’s another re­source. Although your phone prob­a­bly has a dig­i­tal com­pass and GPS, the only di­rec­tions you need to know are a route away from the source and up the stairs.

Backup power. A charger that’s rugged, drop-proof, wa­ter-re­sis­tant, and has a builtin light can serve as an emer­gency backup to your pri­mary light. Re­dun­dancy is al­ways good. Aside from your phone, it can also power a recharge­able flash­light, should the sit­u­a­tion get pro­longed.

Knife or mul­ti­tool. As­sum­ing lo­cal laws per­mit car­ry­ing such an item, some­thing sturdy that can pry and has a glass breaker is ideal. The glass on the trains is heavy duty and won’t shat­ter as eas­ily as a car wind­shield. They also have a plas­tic film that’ll keep the glass in place to avoid in­jur­ing oth­ers when blown out. For these rea­sons, they’ll re­quire a force­ful shove or kick af­ter be­ing shat­tered. You may have to kick through bro­ken glass, and in the worst case, walk on the tracks.

Footwear. I’d wear a trail run­ning shoe that’s sturdy enough for climb­ing but com­fort­able to run fast in.

Gloves. Another carry item to con­sider is heavy work gloves. These will come in handy in case you have to hold onto a win­dow­pane stud­ded with bro­ken glass and for climb­ing over de­bris once the train stops.

Bottled wa­ter mixed with baking soda (sodium bi­car­bon­ate). This mix­ture can be used to flush your face and wash out eyes if they’re tear­ing and get­ting blurry.

Res­pi­ra­tory pro­tec­tion. A CBRN (Chem­i­cal Bi­o­log­i­cal Ra­di­o­log­i­cal Nu­clear) mask isn’t as com­mon or easy to carry as the above items, but there re­ally is no safe so­lu­tion that can be im­pro­vised. There are his­toric ac­counts of sol­diers us­ing uri­ne­soaked socks to com­bat chlo­rine gas in WWI. This doesn’t work well in ac­tual prac­tice (not enough am­mo­nia) or lo­gis­ti­cally on a sub­way with only sec­onds of warn­ing.

In a pinch, you could pour the wa­ter and bi­car­bon­ate so­lu­tion over a thick cot­ton rag and at­tempt to breathe through it. You’d prob­a­bly still get sick, but maybe not as sick as hav­ing noth­ing. Wool shouldn’t be used as it’s too dif fi­cult to breathe through when wet. Another prob­lem is that hold­ing the rag tightly to your nose and mouth would tie up your hands, im­ped­ing your es­cape.

Emer­gency es­cape hoods. These are a more prac­ti­cal al­ter­na­tive to car­ry­ing a bulky full gas mask on a com­mute all the time. More im­por­tantly, when an at­tack hap­pens, you’ll have lit­tle to no warn­ing and will need to re­sort to some­thing you can de­ploy and don quickly. Emer­gency es­cape hoods are one-time-use head cov­er­ings with built-in fil­ters and an elas­tic neck seal. It’s as fast and sim­ple as open­ing the wrap­per and pulling it over your head. They’re pack­aged small enough to fit in your bag, brief­case, or in a pouch on your belt. Emer­gency hoods pro­vide chem­i­cal air fil­tra­tion for 15 to 60 min­utes, enough to es­cape a sit­u­a­tion. They should de­ploy in one step, without straps to ad­just. You should look for hoods that are CBRN-rated and “NIOSH-ap­proved” (Na­tional In­sti­tute for Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health). The Avon NH 15 and

RSG CE 200 se­ries are a few mod­els that fit this need nicely.

Like all emer­gency equip­ment, you should train and fa­mil­iar­ize your­self with their use be­fore you use them in a real sit­u­a­tion.

For even more portability, rapid de­ploy­ment, and a quar­ter of the cost, Scott Safety has an al­ter­na­tive — the Emer­gency Es­cape Mouth Bit Res­pi­ra­tor. It’s like the mouth­piece of a snorkel with a fil­ter at­tached, so it won’t pro­tect your eyes and face. You could put on swim or ski gog­gles if us­ing this op­tion.

It’s im­por­tant to point out that gas masks and hoods fil­ter air but don’t cre­ate oxy­gen. In a sce­nario of a con­fined space where a poi­son gas is dis­plac­ing at­mo­spheric gases, this deadly fact should be kept in mind. A so­lu­tion to this and al­ter­nate op­tion to an emer­gency hood is to carry a small por­ta­ble air sup­ply. The avi­a­tion in­dus­try uses the HEED (He­li­copter Emer­gency Egress De­vice) and the div­ing in­dus­try uses a ver­sion called Spare Air. It’s ba­si­cally a small scuba tank the size of the wa­ter bot­tle you carry to the gym, so it’ll fit in your com­mute bag. It sup­plies ap­prox­i­mately 30 breaths or up to 3 min­utes of air. Con­sid­er­ing the av­er­age sub­way stops are two min­utes apart, it should give you what you need to get out.

Swim or ski gog­gles. These are use­ful if you don’t opt for the es­cape hood, or as a backup to it. They can help to min­i­mize burn­ing to your eyes from the ir­ri­tat­ing gases, so you can pre­serve your vi­sion while look­ing for an es­cape. Mu­cous mem­branes ab­sorb faster than skin, so they may de­crease the pos­si­ble sur­face area for en­try while pro­tect­ing your eyes from burns and blind­ing. It’s not what will kill you, but be­ing blind in the sub­way might.

I wouldn’t carry a chem­i­cal suit as it takes min­utes to get into and tape up. Many aren’t avail­able com­mer­cially any­way with-

out spe­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and sub­stan­tial train­ing to use prop­erly. It’s im­prac­ti­cal to don in a sub­way car full of pan­ick­ing peo­ple and will waste pre­cious time. Suit­ing up can take sev­eral min­utes, whereas es­cap­ing can take sec­onds.

Know your en­vi­ron­ment: The NYC sub­way sys­tem main­tains two sep­a­rate fleets with at least three dif­fer­ent model cars. The di­men­sions of sub­way cars vary from 51 to 75 feet in length and 8 to 10 feet in width. Know how many steps this trans­lates to for you. On av­er­age it’ll be ap­prox­i­mately 22 to 32 steps in length, de­pend­ing on the car. I do a sim­i­lar cal­cu­la­tion in air­planes, count­ing steps from the en­trance to my seat. I also count head­rests with my hand.

In a dark or smoke-filled air­plane, you may lose track of steps be­cause you’re tak­ing longer strides or jump­ing over things, so the num­ber of seats you can touch by ex­tend­ing your hand while run­ning is a nice tac­tile backup. You can also make it a game dur­ing your morn­ing com­mute to count how many stairs and steps from turn­stile to plat­form edge. This will give you an idea of the av­er­age dis­tance you’ll need to cover to reach the rel­a­tive safety of out­doors.

On Site

Sit at the front of the com­part­ment by the door be­tween the cars. This door is easy to open (even when the train is mov­ing), doesn’t re­quire the train to be stopped, and doesn’t have to be pried open to es­cape the com­part­ment. In a panic, most peo­ple will stam­pede and crowd the exit doors to the plat­form; not many will think of es­cap­ing through the door in be­tween cars if the train is stopped.

If the train is mov­ing, peo­ple will quickly re­al­ize your door is their only es­cape, so be pre­pared for the rush to­ward you and pos­si­bly get­ting crushed. Be­ing be­tween cars while the train is mov­ing is dan­ger­ous, but when the train comes to a stop you can jump to the plat­form from there. If you can, con­tinue into the next car and keep mov­ing fur­ther and fur­ther away from the at­tack, putting more dis­tance be­tween you and ground zero.

Why the front end of the com­part­ment as op­posed to the rear? It in­creases your like­li­hood of be­ing up­stream from an in­ci­dent if it oc­curs. If gas is es­cap­ing a stricken car and spread­ing to other com­part­ments, in a mov­ing train it’ll spread pri­mar­ily backward, pushed by the wind cur­rents, not for­ward and up wind in the di­rec­tion of mo­tion. You want to get up­wind.


When it comes to com­mu­ni­cat­ing for help and alert­ing au­thor­i­ties, the NYC sub­way sys­tem of­fers Wi-Fi and cel­lu­lar ser­vice in all its sta­tions. In a sim­ple gas at­tack without struc­tural dam­age from an ex­plo­sion or col­lapse, the sys­tem will likely still be func­tional. Texts re­quire less band­width than cel­lu­lar calls. Of­ten­times, a sig­nal too weak for a suc­cess­ful phone call will still be suf­fi­cient to bounce around and even­tu­ally com­plete a text or post to so­cial me­dia.

If sig­nal isn’t good enough to call for help, you can alert au­thor­i­ties us­ing these means. The NYPD and many large city law en­force­ment agen­cies have so­cial me­dia ac­counts such as Twit­ter and Face­book.

The use of so­cial me­dia to alert and con­tact for help has been proven in dis­as­ters be­fore. You should move to­ward the very front car of the train, plac­ing the largest dis­tance pos­si­ble be­tween you and the gas re­lease and alert­ing the train op­er­a­tor to what is hap­pen­ing. They can ra­dio the au­thor­i­ties.

If you’re stuck in a com­part­ment that is gassed and can’t get out for what­ever rea­son (doors jammed, crowd den­sity, etc.), use your glass breaker on the win­dows and start ven­ti­lat­ing to di­lute the gas. This is where you’ll be thank­ful that you al­ways put your EDC gear in the same place in your bag ev­ery time and have re­hearsed grab­bing each item without look­ing. You need to find that glass breaker in low vis­i­bil­ity, heavy smoke, or through tear­ing eyes. In­struct other pas­sen­gers in the car to “ven­ti­late” the train too.

Keep in mind you don’t want to stick your body too far out of the bro­ken win­dow if the train is in mo­tion, as you can get hit by a pass­ing col­umn. Stand on seats or climb up a pole if you can. The gas is heav­ier than air, so the higher you go, the less the con­cen­tra­tion of the chem­i­cal agent.

This is the op­po­site of the crawl you’re taught to avoid smoke when es­cap­ing from a fire. The re­al­ity is that this prin­ci­ple works best when we’re deal­ing with greater heights, such as go­ing up another floor or two, not so much the 2 feet you get by stand­ing on a seat, but it may buy you a few sec­onds as you sur­vey your es­cape route and break glass. If you were out of the train, get­ting to a higher level by stairs should def­i­nitely re­sult in a no­tice­able change in con­cen­tra­tion gra­di­ent of the gas.

Though get­ting away from the gas is the sin­gle most im­por­tant key to sur­vival, if stopped in a tun­nel, leav­ing the train and head­ing out has its own haz­ards. There’s also the dan­ger of be­ing hit by another train or com­ing into con­tact with the elec­tri­cal sup­ply and be­ing elec­tro­cuted. Also, the tracks are the low­est point in the sta­tion and that’s where the gas ac­cu­mu­lates. Many of the tun­nels are sev­eral blocks long. You’ll have to weigh these dan­gers and de­cide if it’s worth the risk.

Trains are fre­quent tar­gets for ter­ror­ists. Es­cap­ing the epi­cen­ter of the at­tack to the out­side is the key. Di­lu­tion is your friend — get to higher ground, as most chem­i­cal gases sink.


Ter­ror­ism does part of its job when peo­ple are harmed, but it also suc­ceeds when peo­ple are afraid to go about their nor­mal lives. Terror at­tacks in­still peo­ple with fear, in ad­di­tion to caus­ing phys­i­cal harm to peo­ple, sys­tems, and places. This threat may cause some peo­ple to go about their busi­ness with a sense of un­ease. It may keep peo­ple from trav­el­ing to crowded places or vis­it­ing cer­tain cities that may be con­sid­ered a likely tar­get. Or it may leave peo­ple par­a­lyzed with para­noia.

So how do we find a bal­ance be­tween keep­ing our­selves and our fam­i­lies safe and walk­ing boldly through life? Ter­ror­ists win when good peo­ple cower in fear, but this doesn’t mean we should be fool­hardy in our de­fi­ance and will­ingly place our­selves in harm’s way to prove how brave we are. There’s al­ways a mid­dle road we can travel, avoid­ing the great­est risks while ex­er­cis­ing rea­son­able cau­tion. And the key to stay­ing on this mid­dle road is sit­u­a­tional aware­ness. Dur­ing your daily rou­tine, pay at­ten­tion to peo­ple, places, sit­u­a­tions, and your in­stincts. Be vig­i­lant as you go about your day. Trans­form from a na­tion of sheep into a na­tion of sheep­dogs, ever watch­ing for the wolves that would try to harm the help­less.

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